The civil war in Syria now threatens one of the historic gems of the Middle East that loomed large during the crusades. Aleppo was stormed many times by the Byzantines and the crusaders as they tried to eject the Saracens. Originally part of the Roman Empire – it had a large Christian population but fell to the Islamic caliphate in the year 637.
The Byzantines – under the expansionist Macedonian Dynasty – managed to take Aleppo for several decades but it eventually fell to the Seljuk Turks who would become the greatest threat to Christian forces in the Second Crusade. Aleppo was ravaged by a huge earthquake in 1138 with a massive loss of life but the citadel re-emerged as it can be seen today with its elegant bridge and thick walls.
In 1260, the city fell to the Mongol armies that massacred the Muslim and Jewish populations but spared the Christians – possibly because of Nestorian Christian influence among the Mongols. Their rule last barely a year before the Mamluks recaptured the city for Islam.
Today, a scene of horror presents itself with government forces bombarding the city and the BBC has reported a flood of refugees from Aleppo making their way into Jordan. Our thoughts must go first to the people of Aleppo and let’s hope the population and their beautiful city survive this onslaught.